Source: American Chemical Society (ACS)
Newswise — WASHINGTON, March 27, 2011 — Global production of phosphorus fertilizer could peak and decline later this century, causing shortages and price spikes that jeopardize world food production, five major scientific societies warned today. The crisis will come at a time when Earth’s population may surge past 9 billion.
Rice, corn, wheat and other staple food crops require phosphorus, which along with nitrogen and potassium, is one of the three key fertilizer substances that sustain world food supply. Projections indicate that world population will rise from 6.8 billion today to 8.9 billion in 2050.
Chemistry for a Sustainable Global Society warns not only about “peak phosphorus” — an echo of the more familiar concerns about “peak oil” — but raises red flags about the supply of other natural resources where monopolies or political instability could cut off supplies or inflate prices. They include rare earth elements (REEs) and precious metals like lithium, platinum and palladium that are needed to produce computers, mobile phones, rechargeable batteries, solar cells, fuel cells, medications, pollution control devices for cars and other key products.
“It is a national security concern for many nations that a small group of countries control the remaining stocks of many precious and vital resources,” the white paper states. “Politically motivated national policies restricting export of certain minerals are already being put into practice. Limited availability and high prices of scarce natural resources will quickly start to affect industries across many different sectors.”